A new study suggests that people who regularly took statins before they developed COVID-19 are less likely to die in the hospital than people who did not.
Statins are a class of lipid-lowering medications that reduce illness and mortality in those who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease. They are the most common cholesterol-lowering drugs, experts say.
By lowering cholesterol levels in the blood, statins help prevent heart attacks and stroke, according to online health portal, WebMD.
In the study, the researchers, led by a cardiologist at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Centre, Aakriti Gupta, compared patient baseline and presentation characteristics as well as clinical outcomes, including in-hospital mortality, stratified by antecedent statin use, in a cohort of patients admitted with COVID-19 to a quaternary academic medical center in New York City.
The study was published in open-access online journal Nature Communications, titled, ‘Association between antecedent statin use and decreased mortality in hospitalised patients with COVID-19.’
A total of 2,626 patients were admitted during the study period, of whom 951 (36.2 percent) were antecedent statin users.
“Among 1296 patients (648 statin users, 648 non-statin users) identified with 1:1 propensity-score matching, statin use is significantly associated with lower odds of the primary endpoint in the propensity-matched cohort.
“We conclude that antecedent statin use in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 is associated with lower inpatient mortality,” the researchers said.
They noted that although statins have traditionally been administered to lower serum cholesterol, their pleiotropic effects, including anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic properties, make them an attractive class of drugs in the setting of COVID-19.
“Moreover, through effects on lipid rafts in cellular membranes, statins may influence viral transmission and infectivity. By these putative mechanisms, statins appear to have the potential to mitigate the impact of myocardial injury and thrombotic events that are associated with severe COVID-19 presentations,” they said.
The researchers also said the potential benefits from statins extend beyond cholesterol-lowering properties, as there is robust literature supporting the anti-inflammatory properties of statins in the preclinical and clinical arenas, suggesting that these drugs can stabilize and restore endothelial function, and lower rates of circulating inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein.
“In this regard, patients receiving statins presented with significantly lower CRP levels in this cohort compared with those who were not on statins,” the researchers noted.
However, a Nigerian-born epidemiologist and population health scientist at Harvard University, Cambridge, Dr. Ibraheem Abioye, says the study does not seem to mean that statin users are more likely to survive than non-statin users, and so everyone should use statins.
“To make any sense of its results, they need to conduct large randomised trials.
“They looked among people who have already been admitted to hospital for COVID-19. In the US, only those with severe COVID-19 were admitted to the hospital.
“Since we know that severe COVID-19 was more likely in certain groups of patients – obese, with chronic conditions, we can be sure that the population they examined is a hyper-selective population.
“Whatever we learn from this study cannot, therefore, apply to individuals in the general population, especially if they are not obese.
“Among people who are obese, therefore, using Statins for their dyslipidemia is helpful and prevents more severe disease, and improves survival,” Abioye said.
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